By Stephen Baldwin, RealWV
Lee Ann Goins and Kathy Mills are sisters who grew up in Hinton, West Virginia. While they loved small town living and spending time together, life and professional careers took them in different directions. Lee Ann worked as a pharmacist and Kathy worked in finance/accounting.
They had always dreamed of going into business together. They wanted to reshape the image of small-town West Virginia. Then the pandemic hit.
“We started with one product,” Kathy says. “It was just kind of a fun thing to do when we were working from home. We thought occasionally we’d come up with a cool thing for people to buy.”
But to their surprise, demand for their initial products skyrocketed. People loved their posters and t-shirts. Why?
As Kathy explains, “We give a nod to our roots but put a modern spin on it.”
For example, they sell a modern t-shirt that says in bold letters, “Maters, taters, ramps, & beans.” They took a popular, vintage MTV logo and t-shirt design…but made it all about Hinton.
“Our best seller is the Hinton travel by train poster,” says Lee Ann. It blends vintage and modern into an attractive poster showcasing Hinton’s history.
Lee Ann and Kathy loved growing up in Summers County. But they knew it was tucked away from much of the world. “People tend to have preconceived notions of West Virginia,” Kathy says. “We talked about what a shame it was we couldn’t’ rewrite what life in a small is like.”
“We saw an opportunity to put a spotlight on Hinton and the uniqueness of what we have–three rivers, two state parks, a lake, and a national park,” says Lee Ann. “It’s an outdoor playground. There’s so much here and we want people to know about it!”
Making the switch to full-time
For the first few months, Lee Ann and Kathy sold their products pitching small town West Virginia online and at special events. They both held full-time jobs in their professional fields of pharmacy and finance/accounting.
“After Railroad Days in the fall of 2022,” Kathy remembers, “we realized we were at a crossroads. This wasn’t a side project anymore.”
So they did what their friends had told them they would have to eventually do. They quit their jobs after enjoying successful careers.
“This shop is our full-time job now,” Lee Ann offers.
How do these sisters like being in business with each other?
“It’s incredible to be in business with a sibling,” Kathy says. “We never felt like we had enough time together, and now we have lots of time as sisters and business partners!”
Lee Ann fully agrees, saying, “We were always close, but it’s a blessing to do this as sisters.”
When they first knew they needed a retail space, they struggled to find the right spot.
“We tried to buy a few spaces in town, but it never worked out,” Lee Ann recalls. “So we didn’t know how it was going to work out.”
“We were taking a walk one day just getting exercise,” says Kathy. “On a whim, we peaked in a window we passed by and said, ‘What a great spot for a little store.’ We walked in and asked the owner about putting a shop there. He said, ‘Oh sure, you can have it.’”
Lee Ann knows it sounds silly but says, “It was really that easy.”
The space belonged to the Massie Insurance Agency, and Gabe Massie told them his employees were working remotely. So he didn’t have a need for the space. It was theirs if they wanted it.
A few gallons of paint later in addition to new flooring, and it’s the retail space for Hinton Outfitters. Located on the corner of Temple Street and Third Avenue, it’s right in the middle of town by the city park.
They are open Saturdays and Sunday for now, but will likely also be opening on Fridays for the summer. You can also always find them online at www.hintonoutfitters.com.
Dream come true
The dream of owning a business together and reshaping the image of small town West Virginia is coming true for Lee Ann and Kathy. They couldn’t be happier about it!
“We grew up in a time when the city was dying,” Lee Ann says. “Now it’s a time of renewal, and it’s so nice to see it.
Kathy says, “The reason people are coming to Hinton is because it’s beautiful and the people are friendly and warm. People are having a genuine connection here. We are so proud to be part of that.”
Join Hinton Outfitters for a grand opening this Friday, May 12, at 11am.